Where I take a paragraph and examine it in whatever way takes my fancy. Today, I’m taking a look at a paragraph from a piece called ‘One Plot, At Most’ by Jane Rawson. It was published in Overland Issue 230 Autumn 2018.
An Australian short story is short. That is maybe the only thing everyone agrees on. They usually clock in at somewhere between 1000 and 3000 words. You might stretch a story to 5000, providing you don’t plan to get it published anywhere in Australia. (Except, of course, Review of Australian fiction, where length is no barrier – as long as your story isn’t ‘the literary equivalent of a fart or a burp’, as Matt described a piece of microfiction I once tried to foist on him. The only problem is that Review of Australian Fiction is currently ‘on hiatus’. The other option is time travel: Julie Koh tells me that the tragically defunct Sleepers Almanac once published a 12,000-word story of hers.)
I love short stories, absolutely adore them. Each word is chosen specially and there are no superfluous words. It’s an art and so many people can’t write short. In my writer’s group many people complain, short for them is only one or two books in the series. Yes, I know, one book does not make a series but I’m making a point here. The best short story writers manage to put foreshadowing and a twist into their works and I rarely figure out what the twist is until the last minutes, that’s really good writing.
I loved this paragraph because it talks about the length of a short story. It gives a prospective writer something to think about, something to aim for.
You can also write flash fiction. There is a very famous flash fiction attributed to Ernest Hemingway “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” A very sad piece of fiction and if you try you can see just how hard it is to write something this short. I much prefer short fiction, with the larger word count it gives you something more to play with.
I want you to have a go at writing. Try the six words and see how you go. Then, having tried the six word flash fiction try 1,000 and see how you feel doing that. The difference between flash fiction and short fiction is probably the difference between short fiction and a short novel. I use the phrase ‘short novel’ deliberately as the word length of novels has increased substantially over the years. Just have a look at a bookshop or a library to see what I mean.
You can read the entire article here. It’s nicely written and made me smile for various reasons throughout. Rawson once started a session where they sat and read short stories to each other. I really like that idea. If it’s still going I bet it’s moved to video conferencing.